I can’t remember certain vocab no matter what

There are things like 早い and 名字 and 内 are stuck in apprentice seemingly permantly and I can’t remember them no matter what and I’ve reviewed them many times, I’m not sure that to do


Are you using the Extra Study Feature as that will give you a lot of practice for Recent Mistakes. Are you using WK’s mnemonics or did you create your own? When you read the mnemonics do you simply just read it or do you apply multiple senses like seeing/hearing/etc? Do you read the word combinations and context sentences for those words? Have you tried using the website Immersion Kit? If I have trouble understanding a word I type that word in the website and see how it’s used in anime which gives me context.


If you have an item consistently in apprentice, my biggest advice is to “relearn” the mnemonic. I don’t mean to simply reread the mnemonic as given by Wanikani. Instead, internalize the “story” of the vocabulary. Create a more vivid scene with a higher level of detail. It may also be worth creating a personal mnemonic and putting it in the notes of the vocabulary so it sticks more in your memory. Use the Extra Study feature on those ones as well. It may also be worth creating physical notecards of them to review quickly a few times a day for a few weeks, just to internalize them fully.

Good luck! I have definitely been in this position with (more than) a few vocabulary words, but you can definitely get them down!!! :grin:


These are called leeches, the best way to deal with them is putting more attention into the mnemonic, and recognising, that yes, these are hard, they need extra attention. Once you do that, your brain will switch into concentration mode and you will be able to memorise them much much quicker.
Though it also doesn’t help, that you’re only on the earlier levels, so memorising new words is not something your brain is good at yet


I think most people have some of these! For me, the kanji 能 is deadly, and the reading for 試みる seems to get me every time even though I know the meaning.

When I find myself in this situation, sometimes it helps for me to read the mnemonic out loud when I get it wrong. Though that never seems to help me with 試みる…I think sometimes, these things are just hard! All you can do is keep working at it and hope that it sticks eventually.


I think there’s an argument to just ignore these and not let them frustrate you. Especially for the lower-level vocab, those are words that are going to come up over and over again once you start immersing yourself in more. You’ll get them eventually with time. Not quitting is more important that learning 100% of the words that come up imo.


I think probably everybody has this difficulty at first, to one degree or another. And I think that probably everybody will find their own different way(s) to overcome this.

So, you will probably have to come up with your own personal solution: Your own personal ‘way of learning’, that matches your personal difficulties with techniques picked and chosen specifically to overcome them.

However, that doesn’t mean you’re all alone. There are techniques that work well for some people, and other techniques that work well for others. The trick is really just finding the combination of techniques that works for you.

With that in mind, here is a brief list of things I’ve found myself doing to ‘break through’ some difficult-to-learn kanji and vocabs. No particular order, just stuff off the top of my head:

  • One of the most important techniques (for me) that I’ve picked up recently is to slow … right … down. I’m not one of those trying to get to level 60 as soon as possible. Also, I have the lifetime subscription (which is going to be on sale soon for Christmas, if it’s not already! Worth it, IMHO). So, if my review stack starts to fill up with lots of cards that seem stuck in Apprentice, the first thing I’ll do is to stop doing new Lessons (or at least reduce the number I do), until I manage to work through the ‘block’. Even if it takes several days, a week, maybe even a month, that’s okay by me. Trying to force myself through new levels, when I’m still stuck on some items from earlier levels … :nauseated_face: < ugh > No thanks!

  • One of the first things I do is open up the troublesome items in my browser and take the time to read through them thoroughly. Oftentimes, the items I have difficulty with are because I didn’t really take enough time to study them in the first place. Maybe they ‘felt easy’ and I just skimmed through the lesson without really trying to absorb the information. So, first thing is just to go over the item’s details page from beginning to end and just try to ‘absorb’ it all.

  • In particular, I’ll look at the Meaning Explanation/Mnemonics and Reading Explanation/Mnemonics again, and see if I remember them. Maybe I skimmed them and didn’t really try to learn them.

  • Sometimes, the WK mnemonics don’t really work for me. In that case, I will make my own. Each item’s page has editable sections where you can add your own Notes, with (for example) your own reading or meaning mnemonic. If this is something you’re not sure how to do, just ask around and I’m sure many folks will be able to give you more detailed tips on how to do this.

  • Sometimes, one kanji or vocab will be confusingly similar to another kanji/vocab, and I will get stuck on a pair (or triple!) of various items, each one tripping me up on the other(s). Perfect example – just yesterday I finally got fed up with all the different kanji and vocabs that mean things like ‘rule’ and ‘law’: 法律、法則、規律、規則、法規, and their related kanji. Which ones mean ‘rule’, which mean ‘law’, etc. were all jumbled up in my brain.

    • In cases like this, I will usually take the time to ‘dig in’ to these words/kanji and try to find the little differences that make them unique and distinct from each other. I’ll just WaniKani itself to do some research, but I’ll also use other websites (my ‘go to’ is Jisho.org), search up the words and their kanji, and make notes about what I find one the items’ pages (both kanji and vocab). Then I’ll work through them and try to ‘break them down’.
      • For example, 規則 (きそく - rule; regulation) shows up in several other words on WK and on Jisho, such as 不規則 (irregularity), and 規則正しい (regular). Both of these words focus on ‘regularity’, so in this case I decided to start thinking of 規則 as its Alternative meaning of ‘Regulation’, instead of the Primary meaning of ‘Rule’. I’ll still remember that it also means ‘rule’, but in terms of answering on the vocabs, using ‘regulation’ will connect it with other words/kanji that mean ‘irregularity’ and ‘regular’, and also will distinguish this vocab from 規律 which also has the Primary meaning of ‘Rule’.
      • I’ll make a note of this decision in the editable Note section under Meaning on the vocab page for 規則. For example, I wrote in mine:
        • “Regulation(s) (e.g. official/standard school regulations/rules)
          Standard + Rule = the standard rules (local/system/game/routine) = regulation(s) = rule(s)
          Regularity and irregularity.”
      • Then, when 規則 comes up in a review, I will answer with ‘regulation’ instead of ‘rule’. This makes a different connection in my brain than before, making 規則 more ‘distinct’ from 規律 in my brain. Eventually, the two will stop being confused, and I’ll easily get them out of Apprentice and all the way up to Burned, over time.
  • Often in my research, I’ll find different meanings for words that are not already listed by WK as a Primary or Alternative meaning. In these cases, I’ll add them myself using the User Synonyms > “+ Add Synonym” button. Even if I never actually use the synonym during a review, often just having it one the item’s info page helps me jog my memory after I get a review wrong (or even right), and I view the item’s info during the review.

    • For example, WK says 法律 means ‘Law’, and 法規 means ‘Laws’. I’m picky and want to get the right answer because I know the right answer, rather than just guessing ‘law’ or ‘laws’, and essentially getting marked ‘correct’ by accident (because WK allows for ‘spelling mistakes’). Maybe someone else doesn’t care about the difference, but for me understanding the nuance between two very similar words is especially helpful if they use different kanji, since it helps me learn the distinctions between the kanjis. In this case, 律 and 規, since both vocabs start with the same 法.
      • Well, in this case, I looked up 法律 and 法規 in Jisho.org and found some additional meanings that WK did not include. Turns out 法規 also has ‘Legislation’ as a meaning. And 法律 on Jisho also has a link to a Wikipedia article titled ‘Statute’ (like a legal statute). So I added ‘Legislation’ to 法規 as a User Synonym, and ‘Statute’ to 法律. Now, I don’t ever intend to answer legislation or statute as an answer for a review (although, I guess I could :thinking:), but just having these additional meanings highlighted on those vocabs’ info pages helps to distinguish them in my mind.
  • Also, as part of my research, I’ll often do a ‘sentence search’ from Jisho (you can access these using the “Links” menu on the left side of any entry on Jisho).

    • For example, in the previous example of 法律 vs. 法規 – in addition to the meanings ‘statute’ and ‘legislation’ – I also found that in the sentences containing 法律, they almost all referred to ‘laws’ in the way that lawyers and business people in Japan would talk about ‘the laws of Japan’, or ‘The Law’. In contrast, even though WK give 法規 the primary meaning of ‘Laws’, all the example sentences with 法規 seem to refer more to ‘regulations’ and things like ‘traffic regulations’ and ‘the rule of the road’ (again meaning traffic regulations).
    • For this reason, I also added ‘The Law’ as a User Synonym to 法律 (in addition to the previous addition of ‘Statute’). 法規 already has ‘Regulations’ as an Alternative meaning, so I didn’t change that, leaving just the previous addition of ‘Legislation’.
    • So now, when I encounter these in reviews, I will try to answer ‘the law’ for 法律, and ‘regulations’ for 法規.
    • I also added some tidbits in the Notes sections of those two vocabs’ pages, but I already covered that.
  • There are many more things you can do to either customize kanji/vocab on WK, or otherwise do some extra research to discover the deeper nuances of kanji/vocab on your own. (I didn’t even mention doing deep dives on Jisho using their kanji-search and radical-search features, which I also tend to do when stuck confusing similar-but-different kanji!) But that’s enough for now! :sweat_smile:

Perhaps the key point, which is hidden in the above suggestions/techniques, but which I’ll just spell it out right here: Your brain is a learning machine It is literally the result of hundreds of millions of years of evolution, and it’s still better than any current computer at finding connections between ideas: And these connections can be used both to join two ideas closer together, but also to separate two ideas. You just need to focus your brain long enough on a confusing topic, and it will (eventually) begin to identify and distinguish similarities and differences between the ideas. Just point your brain in the right direction (at the confusing things), and take the time to ponder these similar-but-different concepts. Your brain will automatically do its thing and learn how to tell things apart and how to see the commonalities between things. Each of these realizations forms connections in your brain, and the more connections, the better.

All it takes is time… oh, well, and practice. In fact, practice is probably the most important thing. But when even practice is still leaving you stuck, just target your brain on the confusion, stay focused on it, look for the differences and similarities, give yourself the time you need (and put in the effort to take notes and organize your thoughts and things like that), and 99% of the time, your brain will eventually figure it out. Once it does, just go back to practice-practice-practice again! :sweat_smile:


Reading or Meaning?

For Reading, not only mnemonics, but also vocabulary / sentence audio may help. Mnemonics may work better as a vocabulary, rather than a cluster of Kanji’s, but it actually depends.

For Meaning, it might be more appreciable by immersion, particularly, sentences and audio may help. Also, usage.

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You just have to keep at it everyday. You’ve only been going 1 month.
It takes time for your brain to get a handle on this language.

Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn.

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For my own mnmemonics for these ones…

早い - A sun and a 10. Night owls like myself think 10am is EARLY. Can you believe it? And people are always coming by and saying “Hiya” (はや)all cheery-like before I’ve even had my caffeine! How rude!

名字 - This is a little harder. Japanese people give their names, their name characters if you will, with their SURNAME first, right? We already know the pronunciation is weird, but it’d also be weird if someone introduced themselves with a “meow” (みょう? Close enough). Gee, (じ), how strange they are.

内 - We’ve got a person 人 stuck INSIDE this box thingy. They’re trying to climb out using the walls, but oUCHIe… it sure is painful if you’re not used to that kind of exercise.


Does seeing 心見る trough it helps? (it did for me)

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I wouldn’t worry about it, there are still things I struggle with at 60 that I learned at level 12 or so. Doesn’t really matter. Keep pounding and keep immersing and you’ll get there eventually.

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I already accepted I will have some leechs for eternity :sweat_smile:

Some way later on stick easily to mind and eventually I get rid of them but some are always a presence in my reviews, since early levels.


OMG, me too. Exactly these. I’ll add 感想、思想、意識、感心、関心、感謝、etc. Anything around concept, idea, thought, awareness, impression, gratitude, admiration. All these abstract concepts just muddle around up there. Every single one of those cycles between apprentice, master, and back to apprentice.

I think I’ve found my brain works better if WK spaces these out so that I can solidify one before starting work on another. I am not of the school of thought that says students should learn transitive/intransitive verbs in pairs. =

lol, me too.


There are plenty of English words I still have trouble keeping straight.


Madness is doing something over and over again and expecting different results. If you can’t remember these words, try a different path. Look for other mnemonics, look for related vocabulary, search for sentences that use the word and see if your find something that makes it work. Write it down on paper multiple times too, I find that it really helps.

One thing that I (rarely) did for leeches is write the word on my hand discreetly. Then all day long as soon as I’d see it in any situation I’d force myself to remember the meaning. A post-it note next to the monitor if you work on a computer can do the trick too. You can do it in either direction (en → jp or vice versa).

Basically bully yourself into remembering it.


BTW I strongly recommend using WK’s mnemonics as a last resort if you can’t think of anything good yourself. Personal mnemonics that relate to personal experiences will always work better and be easier to remember than premade ones.


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